The Martian

I first heard about The Martian about two years ago when a friend of mine downloaded the audiobook. He was raving about it at a party, and it sounded like the nerdiest thing ever. So of course I was intrigued! But…while I love space and science…books about it are not my strongest subject, and it sounded like this one had a LOT of math.

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And so I put it off. Every once in awhile I’d here someone mention it, but it kind of fell to the background of my TBR.

Until they announced the movie. As things usually go–whenever a book is being made into a movie, the book is an immediate hit, even if it wasn’t originally. And WOW has The Martian been a hit. EVERYONE is reading it now, and so up it went to the top of my TBR! It was even one of the books AdultBooklr read for August…so I just barely made it in.

Again, just like with Armada, I got super lucky and got this one from Blogging for Books. (Seriously guys, if you have a book blog, sign yourself up for Klout and try to get on with them. Fantastic site.) I literally jumped for joy when I saw The Martian was available, because I’ve been waiting for three months for the hold list at the library. Now it’s mine. Yay!

Almost everyone knows about this one by now, but short summary, just in case–Mark Watney gets injured in a massive dust storm on Mars, and his team, thinking he has died, leaves him when they escape to safety. When he comes to and finds himself alone, he formulates a plan to get stay alive until the next Ares mission…4 years in the future.

I was right about the math and the science. There is a LOT of math and science. But, it doesn’t really overwhelm the story, unless you are super into that sort of thing (which I am not). I just took it at face value and moved on. Instead, what moves the plot is the snark and sarcasm that Watney provides through the log-based storyline.

And guys, there is SO.MUCH.SNARK. It’s amazingly fantastic. Aside from him being obviously above my intelligence level, I would love to have a beer with this guy. I feel like we would be friends on snarkiness alone.

This is a book where a man is alone on a foreign planet for a year and a half and has no one to talk to but himself. But there is nothing boring about it. Andy Weir has encased so much emotion and action and hilarity into such a small, sand-encrusted space–I would never have expected it to be this good. By the end, I was so invested that I was basically screaming on the AdultBooklr chat. I was ready to throw the book at the wall. I promise, you will be so invested in this by the last 10 pages, that you will completely understand what I mean.

Two random, funny thoughts that I had before I go:

  1. I couldn’t stop reading this book in Hank Green’s voice. I think I’ve listened to too many Dear Hank & John Podcasts with “News From Mars.” Every single Log was read in Hank’s unique cadence.
  2. I’d be interested to know how many terrorist watch lists Andy Weir was on while researching this book, or if he had to get special permission to do certain research. I mean, Plutonium as a heat source is a major part of the story…that isn’t something you can just google…right? I’m not going to try it to find out.

 

If you haven’t read The Martian, move it to the top of your list immediately. DO IT NOW.

 

Blogging for Books provided a copy of this book for an unbiased review.

 

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Bradstreet Gate

Graduating from Harvard often means that you will be starting a life of wealth and high pillars. The 1%. For the last four years, you’ve worked hard, studied hard…and of course, probably partied a little hard too. Graduation should be a celebration, you’ve done it! Life can begin.

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However, for Georgia, Charlie, and Alice…things didn’t quite go that way. Bradstreet Gate is the story of how their graduation year at Harvard went very wrong, when a classmate was murdered, allegedly by a professor they trusted.

My first thought when I started reading this book was, “Ok…this sounds an awful lot like How to Get Away with Murder.” And since I love that show…I was ok with it. Really though, it’s not at all the same plot, except the creepy teacher/student love affair thing.

Robin Kirman is going to be an author to watch–she writes characters brilliantly, on the same level as Gillian Flynn. There are two people here that I want to open their brains and just rummage around, to see what is going on. One is a textbook novel sociopath. That person is perfection–one that you love to hate immediately. The other will have you guessing the entire book. I am not going to tell you which is which because the kicker of these two characters is…which one actually committed the murder?

Bradstreet Gate‘s subtle creep factor just nails it the whole time. The story itself is wonderful, and then interwoven is this nagging feeling that you are being watched and studied. I kept thinking, “Why is this called a thriller? It’s really not that thrilling?” And then a chill would run down my spine out of nowhere. Oohhh, there it is.

Great debut, Robin Kirman. I’ll be looking for more from you!

 

Blogging for Books sent this to me for an unbiased review.

 

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Armada

There’s no getting around it. I am a HUGE geek. We all know this. Ready Player One appealed to that part of me 100%. It was such a fantastic first book for Ernest Cline that everyone I know has been talking nonstop about the release of his second book, Armada. It’s been one of the loudest releases I’ve seen in recent history–maybe because it not only spanned Booklr, but also most of Nerddom.

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I knew I wasn’t going to be able to wait to get my hands on this one. No way. And, as luck would have it, I didn’t even have to buy it. The wonderful folks at Blogging for Books put it on their list of availables. Thank you BfB! This is certainly one of the most beautiful books I will have in my collection this year (the only one beating it is the Bloomsbury UK Harry Potter Collection, and well…nothing is going to top that). I couldn’t wait to tear into this thing.

And then I started seeing the reviews. The very lackluster, unenthusiastic reviews.

Oh no.

Oh…no…

Maybe it’ll be ok. Maybe it’s just because Ready Player One was just SO good, this sophomore book isn’t quite living up to that standard. I’ll try to keep an open mind and go into it not comparing it to the first.

I quickly learned that 1) It’s impossible to not compare it to Ready Player One. and 2)…

…I really want to just post this as my review and walk away:

But, I owe you more than that. So brace yourselves.

The key difference between the two books, is that in RP1, you’re actually in the game, you’re living the action. It’s extremely dynamic and you can almost feel the bright color and warmth of the digital world. But Armada isn’t like that. It’s just a sad, ambitionless, video game obsessed high school kid stuck in front of a screen. It’s not dynamic. There’s no action. Picture yourself on a hot, summer Saturday, laid out on your buddy’s bed eating Cheetos while he plays XBOX for hours…and you watch with nothing to do. That’s about what this book is like compared to RP1.

Sounds fun, right? Yeah, I almost didn’t make it past the first 40 pages because of that. To be honest, the only reason I kept going, was because on page 45, Ernest Cline made a Leeroy Jenkins reference that finally made me laugh.

The good news–the plot does strengthen after awhile. A bit. There’s a super secret government agency tasked to save the world from an alien invasion, and has been training the world’s teenagers to fight via video games. It’s now finally time for the war to begin.

(What I found really amusing in all this is that I’m pretty sure I had a few of these exact conspiracy conversations with my ex and his friends. Even more amusing…that’s where my love of the Leeroy Jenkins meme came from.)

Maybe it’s just too soon after RP1, or maybe RP1 was just that great–but Armada just seems forced. My head was ready to explode from all the space game references that were packed in like Skywalker twins in a trash compactor. It reads like a publisher said, “Quick! We need another book!” And Cline ran off with all of this geeky obsessionness and just threw together every space reference he had. It was that first, plot second, character development last. Don’t get me wrong, I love geeky obsessions, but we need more plot points and sentence structure, before being bombarded by lasers.

I had a conversation with a new friend of mine the other night about books with unlikely characters, or unbelievable plots, and how they will ruin a book. Now, I read a lot of fantasy and some science fiction. My mind is stretchable, I have quite a big imagination. Whether I believe in aliens or not, it is the author’s job to MAKE me believe in his aliens for the span of 300 pages. In RP1, Ernest Cline made me believe that I was inside of a computerized AI system. Unfortunately, his sophomore book fell way short of that. In his epilogue, his narrator says, “This human understands enough to know when he’s being messed with.” And that is exactly how I felt the entire time I was reading Armada. I could not suspend my disbelief, and so the book never resonated with me. And when the end hit, well, it’s just a good thing the book is so pretty, or there would be a dent in the wall.

Also…understand that I’m sitting here cringing because this is probably one of my most brutal reviews given to someone still living. I’m not sure I could have done it if he wouldn’t have written such a strong first book. I’m just so disappointed in this second book…and I don’t think I’m the only one. Ernest Cline, if you’re out there…keep writing. Keep being your damn geeky self, and bring us more! We will wait!

Blogging for Books provided a copy of this book for an unbiased review.

The Library at Mount Char

Ever since I started interacting on Tumblr, I wished for a better mode of communication with my fellow Booklrs. Tumblr is great for sharing our obsessions, but it really sucks when it comes to actually getting to know people. However, I recently started chatting with a bunch of fellow adult booklrs on GroupMe, and it has been the best platform for all of us to get together. I’ve really gotten to know some great people through the near constant conversations we have every day.

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One of the books that was recommended on the GroupMe chat was The Library at Mount Char. One of the members went on and on about how good it was, so it immediately went to the top of my list. And it just happened to be a Blogging for Books selection this month, so EVEN BETTER!

Library at Mount Char goes immediately to the top of my “weirdest books” list. Goodreads calls it “Neil Gaiman meets Joe Hill,” which is EXACTLY what I was going to call it in my review. Great minds think alike. It’s basically a creation story and a dystopian fell into a mixing bowl together with a dash of horror gore, and then someone mashed it all up.

I’m not even really sure how to summarize it for you. Even the Goodreads description doesn’t really fit. It’s just a really freaking crazy book–one I couldn’t put down, even when I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. More just “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!” There are lions and atomic bombs and a guy who uses blood as shampoo.

I think my head is in a permanent sideways position, and my dreams have been pretty weird the past two nights. This isn’t a book for everyone, you’re either going to love it or hate it. Probably if you’re a big Neil Gaiman fan, you’ll love it. Just….read it at your own risk, that’s all I’m going to say.

 

Blogging for Books provided this book for an unbiased review.

 

One more thing, guys! I am now an Amazon Affiliate, which means if you use my link to make purchases on Amazon, I get a piece of the pie. Doesn’t cost you anything more, but helps me out a bit. Click on the book below to use my link! I’ll be doing this from now on 🙂

Empire of Sin

As a sophomore in college, I visited New Orleans for a week during Spring Break. Our church group went the year after Katrina to help with flood relief–which at that point meant tearing down moldy drywall, pulling up carpets…really breaking the sodden houses down to their studs so the families could rebuild. As a pretty sheltered white girl from small-town Indiana, it was a pretty eye-opening experience. Not only had I really never been to a city that big, I hadn’t ever seen devastation like that either.

But, day after day that week, we ripped apart people’s homes…and when we came out, they would hug us with gratitude, and there would be prayer circles and Creole (or Cajun, I apologize, my 19 year old self did not know the difference at the time) blessings. It was all so beautiful and unexpected. Everyone was so resilient and strong and lovely and I just fell in love with the city.

And then I got to the French Quarter, and found the food and the music and well…the rest is just history.

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Since then I’ve added quite a bit of New Orleans-themed books to my TBR, and every once in awhile one will pop up. Recently, Blogging for Books had Empire of Sin as one of their choices, and I grabbed it.

Gary Kirst’s latest book is a history of New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century, right before Prohibition, when sex, jazz and alcohol fueled the town. There’s so much dark, fascinating stuff here, I don’t know where to start!

I guess, first off, let me be frank. This is a book about the south in the late 1800s. That means this is a book filled with racism. There’s just no way around it. To say I struggled with parts of it is to put it mildly. It’s not even just black racism either–though that is a huge part of it.

One of the major themes in Krist’s book is the civil war between the three peoples of New Orleans:  the white politicians/police, the blacks, and the Italians. There were constant battles between the groups, and often the blacks seemed to take a lot of the blame–with one of the riots ending with any black man out on the street being shot by a group of vigilantes.

Another theme we see repeated is the battle for power in Storyville–the prostitution district. I got a little confused over some of the politics in this area–who was on what side–but the fight for respectability was an interesting thing to read about, when I am so used to reading about prostitution as a negative profession.

Lastly, there was the music. And that was my favorite part of the book. I’ve been a fan of the blues for years (probably since I went to New Orleans, to be honest), so to hear about some of the old greats and how they got their start was fascinating. We get to hear about Little Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet, and all the struggles they went through to just play their hearts out.

New Orleans is one of those cities that you just have to touch. And when you do, it gets inside of you and never lets go. I can’t wait to go back someday, as an adult, when I can really appreciate it. Empire of Sin shows some of those dark corners that all cities have, but it also gives us the great things that comes out of those dark corners.

Oh, and if you pick this up, make sure you read past the bibliography and index in the back. Kirst has included both a pretty epic blues/jazz playlist with all the great albums and a New Orleans fiction list!

 

Blogging for Books provided this book for an unbiased review. Released on June 16th.

The Little Paris Bookshop

I have just finished the most wonderful book. (Coming in just under the gun too, since I finally caught up with myself on these reviews!) Blogging for Books sent me a copy of The Little Paris Bookshop, which appealed to me by name alone. I mean…Paris, books…come on. What could be better?

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And then I started reading. Right away, there is so much emotion that it is almost seeping out of the pages. Monsieur Perdu is asked to give up is very last bit of furniture to his next door neighbor because her husband has left her and she has nothing. And sure, why not, because he still has a table left, and he’s given all the rest of his furniture away to everyone else anyway–because that’s just the sort of guy he is. He can hear her weeping through the walls, and if she needs his table…then dammit she’s going to get his table. And a book too, something to help with the pain.

Monsieur Perdu is a literary apothecary. He has a book for every ailment. He runs his service out of his barge on the Seine, diagnosing his “patients” and sometimes grasping the wrong book from their hands and giving them a new one. Or…more likely, an old one. But always, just the right one.

On the anniversary of the day his lover left him, he reads a letter she wrote him long ago. And that letter, rather than the Dear John one he was expecting, was full of love and pain and the announcement that she was dying and didn’t know how to say goodbye. A whole new kind of grief hits him, and so he goes on a journey to “find her.” Along the way he meets several beautiful characters, all looking for love and life and learning.

This is one of the most honest books I have ever read. I wish I could share some of the quotes with you, but because it has not been released yet, you’ll just have to wait. Seriously though, I have pages and pages written down from this book–it was SO inspiring and gorgeous. The prose is just phenomenal. The way George talks about love and the comparison between women and men made me want to weep at times.

The characters were also exceptionally written. I felt I could reach out and touch Monsieur Perdu. I certainly wanted to–his emotion was so real. I was devastated for him, and my heart soared for him whenever something magnificent happened.

I could go on and on about this book, but how about I just let you read it? Go add this to your TBR immediately. It comes out next week, June 23. Please go pick it up. Love this book.

 

Blogging for Books provided this book for an unbiased review.

The Shore

Not too long ago, I started watching the VlogBrothers on Youtube, and it’s safe to say I am definitely becoming a Nerdfighter. I am so addicted to their vlogs. My husband says, “Those guys talk SO FAST!” But, I always learn something by watching them rant or rave over the next thing in current events or nerddom.

The other day, Hank was talking about Feelings, and one of those Feelings was when you read a book that has a hundred different stories all going in different directions and then something shifts and brings all of those plots together at the end. Hank, I love that Feeling too! It’s such a rush, isn’t it?

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The Shore by Sara Taylor is a book that tries to accomplish that Feeling. I started it after finishing Fangirl at 9 o’clock the other night, and then stayed up an extra hour and a half because I couldn’t put it down. The first quarter of the book is FANTASTIC. It’s super thrilling and emotional. I thought YES! I can’t wait to read the rest of this…but I have to get to sleep.

Each chapter is a different time period, ranging from the mid-1800s into the future. The narrators are all female, from two branches of one original family tree. Each story tells a different version of abuse, pain, strength, and a new pregnancy to continue the generation.

In theory, it’s a great book. If I were to read that synopsis, I would immediately go grab this off the shelf. In fact, the jacket cover sounds a lot like that, with a bit more detail–which is why I picked this one from the Blogging for Books review options.

However, the chapters do not go in chronological order. They skip around all over the place. You read a chapter from 1995, then skip to 1847 then 2037 then 1963. (Something like that…Not exactly that.) Even the chapters that are close together, like 1995 and 1991 may not have the same characters/situations, so it is all just extremely confusing. I kept waiting to go back to the original story from the first section, and it just never did. I just kept getting more and more confused!

I finally get a resolution at the end, but it wasn’t that Feeling. It really wasn’t much of anything, really. Very anticlimactic. It even tried to be apocalyptic/dystopian, in a book that really didn’t need to be. I dunno, this one just didn’t do it for me at all, and that is so disappointing because it started off SO strong. Usually if a book is bad, it’s bad from the beginning. The first section was a “make me stay up all night” read. The rest…nothing.

 

Blogging for Books provided this book for an unbiased review.